Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's Your Birth Order?

I just started reading this book about birth order.  Apparently, a large part of your personality is shaped by whether you are a first born, a middle child, or a "baby".  Parents unknowingly condition their children to have certain personality characteristics according to where they are in the birth order (and where the parents were in the birth order).  I'm only on the third chapter and I already find it helpful in understanding my own family dynamics as well as in understanding the students I teach.  (Especially when I teach siblings.)

Here are some of the characteristics I've learned:

First borns - are usually more responsible at an earlier age (because the parents had them help out with their younger siblings).  They are list-makers, perfectionists, are reliable, and are natural leaders.  In fact, most of our presidents are first borns (or are functional first borns).  Note:  If there is an age gap of more than five years between siblings, the younger one may have more first born characteristics.

Middle Children - are the most likely to live far away from home.  (This is absolutely true with my brother and my cousin who are both middle children.)  They are usually good mediators, avoid conflict, are loyal to peers, and have lots of friends.

Youngest Children (babies) - are used to getting a lot of attention.  They are also used to other people doing stuff for them.  They are usually charming, attention-seeking, natural sales people, blaming of others, and affectionate.  Most actors and comedians are youngest children.

Now, you don't have to subscribe to these things, but I find it helpful to be aware that this phenomenon exists so that you can make a choice as to what characteristics you will embrace instead of just going along with your programming.  I recognize myself as a classic first born.  In fact, I'm starting to think that most of the friction between myself and my mom when I was a teenager stemmed from the fact that she was a youngest child and I was an oldest child.  She thought I was bossy and I thought she was  irresponsible.  It also explains why she gets along better with my youngest brother.  Usually, the parent identifies more strongly with the child of the corresponding birth order.  I find this fascinating!  Do any of you out there find that any of this relates to you and your family?

By the way - interestingly enough, most of my friends are also first borns as is my husband.  I guess I am drawn to people with like characteristics! 


  1. I studied birth order years ago and even though I usually don't go for that sort of thing I see lots of truth in it

  2. Thanks for reading, Lyza! It's not perfect, of course. I mean, I have a lot of middle child characteristics too. It does make a lot of sense though.
    I would be curious to know what books you read on the subject.

  3. Middle children also get less attention as proven here in your blog, story of my life as a middle child! This is very interesting, I should read up more on it too. My parents definately get along best with the children who correspond with their birth order. I had never even thought of that before. Thanks for posting this. Mairéad

  4. Ah, Mairead, that's why you're the life of the party. Always trying to stand out! :-)

  5. I am technically the middle child by 5 minutes. and I just happen to be your friend, too! : ) I don't know which of my children I relate to the best because I was in the younger group of kids in my family but I had to share that spot with my sis. But since I was the older Twin, I had to take responsiblity for my sister because she was more shy than I was. So....Most of the time I think I try to make sure that my oldest understands about sharing and sometimes it is ok to give control to his brother (even when he doesn't want to do things his way), and letting the younger child get to have control. do I give control...the best way is playing Indiana Jones Legos 2. It is a game that involves teamwork. and if you want to accompplish any of the missions, you have to work together. Usually my oldest plays and the younger son of mine must following him in the game and do as he wants. So...sometimes I do roll reversal (Even though the oldest is 5 and the youngest is only 3) and allow the 3 yr old to have control and the 5 yr old has to follow around his little brother in the game. It really drives my oldest bonkers, but he tends to be very dominating at times and doesn't want to give his little brother a chance. I remember that from when I was a child. My brother (Being 5.5 yrs older than me) was more like a parent and didn't really seem to think I was smart enough to do anything. I don't want my oldest to think that way of his brother. I will let you know how my experiment works. : )

  6. I am not allowing the youngest to have control all the time. I am also working on making sure that he isn't spoiled and takes responsiblity as well. I read my statement and realized it sounded like the little guy gets to do whatever he wants! Nope...that doesn't happen. : )

  7. I think it's very wise and awesome of you to have the youngest take responsibility too. (How many spoiled babies do we see in society today?)

    Also, I want to point out that of course I have friends that are middle and youngest children! This isn't perfect science here, just guidelines.

    (BTW - sometimes the middle child can take on oldest child characteristics if there is more than 5 years between them and their older sibling. He also points out in this book that even in twins, they always know which is the oldest.)

  8. Also, it's good for the oldest child to get used to letting someone else be in charge. Good idea Christi! I know I struggle with this in myself. (I always want to be in control.)

  9. Oooh. I just happened upon another interesting fact. The oldest sibling is much more likely to suffer migraine headaches! This is because we take on and internalize more stress. Hmmmm. I am the only sibling to have migraines in my family. Neither of my brothers get them.